If a vape is a quiet and discreet way to get elevated, a bong is the smoking equivalent of a banging drum solo, with an unmistakable sound (and smell) that’s hard to ignore. But picking out the bong that’s right for you can be a challenge. Below is a guide to the different types of bongs you might consider adding to your collection.

What is a bong?

A bong is essentially any water-cooled pipe. When using a bong, you put your flower in the bowl, and when you light it and inhale through the mouthpiece, the smoke travels through the water before it gets inhaled, cooling the smoke before it enters your lungs. It makes for a much smoother smoke with less coughing. Simple water pipe bongs will have a metal bowl for your grass and a downstem that leads from the bowl to the water.

Do looks matter?

The shape of your bong is a matter of style preference. Some will look like triangular or round chemistry flasks. Others will look like a tall glass tube. Bong devotees may tell you the shape matters to give you a better hit, but it’s mostly subjective and entirely a matter of personal aesthetic.

Percolators, carburetors and chambers

If your pipe has a network of small winding tubes inside the main piece, that is a percolator. A “perc” gives you another opportunity to cool the smoke before it reaches your mouth. As you inhale it, the smoke travels through the network of tubes and channels, cooling the smoke along the way.

Other models may also have a carburetor, or a “carb.” A carb is a small hole in the side of the piece, not unlike the hole in your favorite glass pipe. Covering or releasing that hole with your finger increases or restricts the amount of cooler fresh air that passes through. Covering the carb makes it hotter but gives you a more substantial hit. Leaving the carb open can mean a cooler draw, but it will be weaker since you’re not strictly inhaling the smoke.

A multi-chamber bong is a water pipe with a series of larger, connected tubes through which the smoke passes. It’s similar to a perc, but the chambers are on the piece’s outside (rather than inside), resulting in a smoother, cleaner hit. Some models also have a second chamber for water, which effectively cools your hit two times. Due to its complicated setup, a multi-chamber piece may be on the expensive end of your price range. A multi-chamber can also be a hassle to clean.

Ground Control to Major Tom

At the top of the heap is the gravity bong. It’s an automatic, electricity-free, water-fueled science project that will send even the most veteran smoker into low earth orbit. A quality gravity bong can run a few hundred dollars, but it is a fast, fun and extremely effective way of getting high.

After filling your bowl with green and the lower chamber with water, you light your bud and turn the device upside down. The water will drain from the upper chamber to the lower. The change in pressure draws the smoke from the bowl into the upper chamber. The water cools the smoke. When all the water is in the lower chamber, spin it around again, and the pressure from the draining water is pushed out through the mouthpiece. Versions of this bong have existed in college dorms for generations.

Which bong is best for me?

Ultimately, the best bong for you depends on your smoking habits, how much you smoke and how often. Are you looking for something small, sturdy and reliable? Or are you interested in a presentation piece, something for when friends come over? The good news is with a bit of time and research, you can find something to suit your needs perfectly. Look around online, ask your friends or head to your local dispensary for advice.

Cannabis Monthly is presented by Ionic.

Based in the Pacific Northwest, Ionic is passionate about crafting the finest small-batch cannabis oils and cannabis concentrates. Our pillars of Quality, Responsibility and Respectability are the guiding principles that have inspired the distinctive finish and curated experiences we create.

DISCLAIMER: This product has intoxicating effects and may be habit-forming. Marijuana can impair concentration, coordination and judgement. Do not operate a vehicle or machinery under the influence of this drug. There may be health risks associated with consumption of this product. For use by adults 21 and older. Keep out of reach of children.